THE MIGHTY QUINN: Embattled White House Social Secretary Desirée Rogers has lost the support of Washington’s premier social chronicler and arbiter, Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn.
On Tuesday, Quinn, an author and journalist and wife of retired Washington Post executive editor Ben Bradlee, called for Rogers’ ouster following the revelation of a third uninvited guest at the Obamas’ first White House State Dinner for India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Nov. 24. Rogers has survived intense scrutiny and criticism for the past several weeks since the first couple to be identified as party crashers, Tareq and Michaele Salahi, grabbed the headlines. The incident was quickly characterized as a security breach and became the subject of at least one House committee hearing, at which the White House refused to let Rogers testify.
This story first appeared in the January 6, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
In her column Tuesday, Quinn, a leading hostess in Washington society in her own right, broke her silence on Rogers’ handling of the A-list guest list and protocol. “From the start, Rogers was an unlikely choice for social secretary,” she wrote. “She was not of Washington, considered by many too high-powered for the job and more interested in being a public figure (and thus upstaging the First Lady) than in doing the gritty, behind-the scenes work inherent in that position. That Rogers stayed and that the White House refused to allow her to testify before Congress reflected badly on the President. He, not a member of his staff, ended up looking incompetent. Although it has emerged that a State Department protocol error is to blame for the presence of a third uninvited guest, both Rogers and [Mark] Sullivan [director of the Secret Service] should step down.”
It’s hard to say how Quinn’s rebuke will play and whether Rogers, the first African-American social secretary, former Chicago business executive and socialite who has known the Obamas for more than a decade, will escape unscathed. The First Lady’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Rogers, who pledged to make the elite world of Washington and the White House accessible to ordinary citizens through lotteries for the public, while at the same time planning glamorous, exclusive events for the First Couple, still has her share of defenders.
Asked whether she should step down, Carl Sferrazza Anthony, historian at the National First Ladies’ Library in Canton, Ohio, said: “Not at all. I’ve been watching very carefully what she has been doing, and she has been creating a tremendous amount of innovation through an effort to somehow make what goes on at the White House more accessible to people who could never afford to come and stay in a hotel, but who are just as worthy and qualified to be invited.”
But Quinn’s column isn’t the only recent broadside against the White House East Wing from the Post. There have been two other critical Post pieces on the First Lady and her office, penned by Washington Post staff writer and fashion critic Robin Givhan, in the past month, as the paper steps up its critical coverage of the Obamas after barely a year in office. Post officials declined comment as to whether there would be more. — Kristi Ellis
A BATTLE OF THE ZZZS: While surviving on just a few hours of sleep each night has become almost a badge of honor for some women, Cindi Leive and Arianna Huffington — both of the formerly sleep-deprived camp — are taking to their respective Web sites to challenge women on this notion. For the month of January, Leive and Huffington have committed to getting at least seven-and-a-half hours of sleep a night, and they are inviting readers to do the same. Their twice-weekly blog posts about the subject will simultaneously appear on glamour.com and Huffingtonpost.com.
Huffington said her wake-up call about her own sleep deprivation happened while at work. She fainted from exhaustion and hit her head on her desk, requiring stitches. “This is a moment to recapture this issue from men,” she remarked. “It’s been a sign of male virility, but you don’t need to live a sleep-deprived existence to get ahead.” Meanwhile, Leive believes sleep deprivation has become a feminist issue. “No one can function at their best if they walk around groggy and dazed all the time,” she noted. — A.W.
STEPPING DOWN: After seven years at the helm of In Touch, editor in chief Richard Spencer has resigned from the celebrity weekly. A spokeswoman confirmed the departure and said it’s too soon to name a replacement. The news that Spencer may have quit was first reported on Gawker. Some are pointing to Michelle Lee, longtime executive editor at the Bauer Publishing title, to succeed Spencer. Meanwhile, it’s unclear where Spencer could be headed, although a few weekly insiders suggested OK magazine, which has been a revolving door in the past. An OK spokesman declined to comment on any employment speculation, noting that Mark Pasetsky is the managing editor of the title (which is the most senior role at the magazine). According to Media Industry Newsletter, In Touch was down, year-to-date, 22 percent in ad pages to 846. — Amy Wicks